Prince Harry failed to appear in a London court Monday for the first day of his showdown against the UK’s Daily Mirror – defying the orders of the judge.
Harry’s lawyer David Sherborne told Judge Timothy Fancourt that the Duke of Sussex had flown from his Los Angeles home late Sunday after attending his daughter Lilibet’s second birthday, but could not attend court Monday.
“His travel arrangements are such and his security arrangements are such that it is a little bit tricky,” Sherborne told the judge.
“I’m a little surprised,” Fancourt replied, noting he had instructed Harry to be in court for the first day of the highly-anticipated case.
Harry was due to appear for the first of five pending legal cases against UK tabloids accused of hacking his phone and invading his privacy.
Andrew Green, a lawyer for Mirror Group Newspapers, said he was “deeply troubled” by Harry’s absence on the trial’s opening day.
He accused Harry’s legal team of wasting the court’s time, saying he had expected to question the prince about 33 articles that the royal maintains were based on unlawfully obtained material.
The 38-year-old prince had been scheduled to testify Tuesday, but his lawyer was told last week the duke should appear Monday in London’s High Court in case the opening statements ended before the end of the day.
Harry is suing Mirror Group Newspapers for damages over alleged unlawful information gathering.
Sherborne said phone hacking and other forms of unlawful information gathering were carried out on such a large scale that it was implausible the newsgroup used a private investigator to dig up dirt on the prince only once, which is what they have admitted.
“The ends justify the means for the defendant,” he said.
The case against Mirror Group is the first of Harry’s multiple lawsuits against the media to go to trial — and one of three alleging tabloid publishers unlawfully snooped on him.
Mirror Group has maintained it had used documents, public statements and sources to legally report on the royal.
But Sherborne alleged that Mirror journalists used the same techniques on Harry — eavesdropping on voicemails and hiring private investigators to spy — as they did on others.
Harry, who will become the first member of the royal family in over a century to testify in court, is expected to describe how he was tormented by the media throughout his life.
He has blamed paparazzi for causing the 1997 car crash in Paris that killed his mother, Princess Diana, and said harassment by the British press led him and his wife, Meghan Markle, to leave royal life behind and flee to the US in 2020.
The articles in question date back to his 12th birthday, in 1996, when the Mirror reported Harry was feeling “badly” about the divorce of his mother and father, now King Charles III.
Mirror Group Newspapers said it didn’t hack Harry’s phone and that its stories were based on legitimate reporting techniques.
The publisher had apologized for hiring a private eye to dig up dirt on one of Harry’s nights out at a bar, but the resulting 2004 article headlined “Sex on the beach with Harry” is not among the 33 involved in the lawsuit.
Along with the Daily Mirror’s parent company, the Mirror Group Newspapers, Harry is suing Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, The Sun, and the Associated Newspapers Ltd, which owns the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.
The first trial is aimed at the Mirror Group and 33 of the 150 stories it published between 1995 and 2011 about Harry.
Sherborne has pointed at columnist Piers Morgan, a former Daily Mirror, as one of the parties who allegedly authorized the use of the illegal material for publishing.
Both the Mirror Group and Morgan have denied any involvement in the phone hacking, with the publisher claiming in court that the articles involved a “breathtaking level of triviality.”
With Post Wires
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